Healthcare in America: Getting Better But Still Not Good Enough

Carolyn Clancy, MD


October 29, 2007


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As physicians, we continually strive to provide safe, appropriate, high-quality care for our patients. In general, the quality of care provided by the US healthcare system is improving, but we're still missing important opportunities to help Americans avoid disease or serious complications.

This is one of the key findings of the latest National Healthcare Quality Report and National Healthcare Disparities Report by my agency, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The reports found significant gaps in the use of proven disease prevention and management strategies.

The Quality Report tracks the healthcare system using more than 200 quality measures, and the Disparities Report uses the same measures to describe how racial, ethnic, low-income, and other vulnerable populations are faring. Together, these reports shed light on our health system's successes and shortcomings.

There are some clear areas in need of improvement, such as:

  • Only 58% of obese adults reported being counseled about exercise[1];

  • Only 49% of people suffering from asthma said they were told how to change their environments[2]; and

  • Just 48% of adults with diabetes received the screenings recommended to prevent complications.[3]

In many cases, the quality reports for vulnerable populations were more disturbing. For example, colorectal cancer screening rates were significantly lower for blacks and Asians when compared with whites. People 65 and older, blacks, Hispanics, and those in lower income groups were less likely to have ever received a vaccine to prevent pneumonia.

Cleary, these reports tell us there is room for improvement in the quality of care we provide and show us specifically where to target our efforts. That's feedback we can all use to help our patients. That's my opinion. I'm Dr. Carolyn Clancy, Director of the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.




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